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BC Politics

NDP’s Sheila Malcolmson Wins Nanaimo Byelection

High-stakes vote would’ve changed the balance of power in British Columbia.

By Andrew MacLeod 30 Jan 2019 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria and the author of All Together Healthy (Douglas & McIntyre, 2018). Find him on Twitter or reach him at

The NDP’s Sheila Malcolmson has won the Nanaimo byelection, a critical vote for British Columbia’s New Democrat government.

With all ballot boxes reported late Wednesday night, Malcolmson had 10,538 votes, BC Liberal Tony Harris had 8,665 and Green Michelle Ney had 1,579.

“I want to thank the people of Nanaimo for a vote of confidence in our work to make life more affordable for British Columbians, to improve the services people count on, and to generate the jobs of the future in a healthy, sustainable environment,” said Premier John Horgan in a statement.

The byelection had been closely watched, since a win for the Liberals would've changed the balance of power in B.C.

It would've given the party 43 seats in the legislature, matching the NDP’s 40 plus the Greens’ three, and forced the speaker — former Liberal MLA Darryl Plecas who now sits as an independent — to break tie votes, a situation many observers said would not have lasted long.

Nanaimo has all but twice voted for NDP candidates over the past 50 years. Since 2005 it has been represented by Leonard Krog, who stepped down as MLA in December after winning an election to be the city’s mayor.

Malcolmson has been the Member of Parliament representing Nanaimo-Ladysmith in Ottawa since 2015. She came to politics via environmental activism and previously served on the Islands Trust council.

She framed the campaign as a choice between going forward with the NDP or back to the Liberals and their record of cutting services while allowing social problems to grow and housing prices to rise.

Liberal Harris runs a real estate development and investment firm and is the son of Tom Harris, a high-profile Nanaimo businessman who died in 2017.

Throughout the campaign Harris made little attempt to defend the Liberal record and presented himself as someone with deep local roots who cares about the city and wants to make it better.

Green Party candidate Ney is a retired teacher and daughter of former Nanaimo mayor Frank Ney.

Support for the Greens dropped in the byelection, with the party earning about seven per cent of the vote — much lower than the nearly 20 per cent of the vote it received in the 2017 general election.

Green leader Andrew Weaver said the results were disappointing, but not unexpected.

“I spent a lot of time in Nanaimo campaigning with Michele, and many members, donors and supporters of our party came up to us saying that while they continued to support our party, they felt they needed to vote for the NDP in this byelection so that the government and our agreement with them can continue,” Weaver said in a statement.

Also running in the byelection were Justin Greenwood for the BC Conservative Party, Robin Richardson for the Vancouver Island Party and Libertarian Bill Walker.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics, BC Politics

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